On a recent visit to Erbil, in the “other Iraq,” AAOS fellow Rick Wilkerson, DO, photographed Kurdish children playing in the streets under the watchful eyes of their parents.


Published 5/1/2007
Lynne Dowling

Orthopaedic educators needed in ‘the other Iraq’

Once, the most advanced medical care in the Mideast was available in Iraq. Now, medical and surgical specialty groups from around the world are helping establish a National Medical Training Center (NMTC) to rebuild a healthcare system devastated by war and upheaval.

The new NMTC will be in Erbil, which is known as “the other Iraq.” Located in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Erbil is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and is the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Unlike many other large Iraqi cities, Erbil is noted for its safety and “remarkable levels of normalcy” in day-to-day living.

Until the NMTC building is constructed, education programs developed in cooperation with Kurdistan physicians will be held in the Hawler University Cultural Center. Surgical training will be conducted at Hawler University Medical Center. Basic medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics top the physician-education needs, but advanced trauma life support and fracture management are also among the NMTC’s top 10 information and education priorities.

The NMTC is looking for four U.S. orthopaedic surgeons willing to travel to Erbil and participate in a four-day education program. The NMTC will provide housing and meals, but faculty must cover their own travel expenses.

Academy member Rick Wilkerson, DO, has made several trips to Iraq in the past three years. Dr. Wilkerson was part of an AAOS-multimedical specialty education forum conducted in Baghdad in February 2004—the first international medical conference held in Iraq in more than two decades. On his most recent trip, he conducted a limb fracture management course with Academy member, Lewis G. Zirkle, MD, founder of the SIGN system for intramedullary nailing.

“Erbil really is ‘the other Iraq,’” said Dr. Wilkerson. “Compared to some of the other places I have been there, it’s almost as if it is a different country.” He’s right, of course, because Erbil is in Kurdish territory and Kurdish-governed.

When asked whether it was difficult to fly into and out of Erbil, Dr. Wilkerson indicated that direct flights on Royal Jordanian Airlines from Amman, Jordan, to Erbil, make it relatively easy and safe to travel from the United States to Iraq.

AAOS members who want to learn more about this independent medical mission education program should contact Dr. Wilkerson directly at rwilk@iowaone.net

Lynne Dowling is director of the AAOS international department. She can be reached at dowling@aaos.org